Updated: Jul 31
PRESS RELEASE: Jimmy Lai’s national security trial postponed again in Hong Kong, this time until September.
13 December 2022 – The national security trial of pro-democracy campaigner and British citizen Jimmy Lai has today been postponed until September 2023. This is part of a continuing perversion of justice that has seen Lai already held for two years awaiting trial. Lai’s National Security Law trial, originally due to start Thursday 1st December, has now been put on hold as the government scrambles to rewrite the rules to deny Lai his choice of legal counsel. Lai’s trial is now due to start more than 1000 days after he was first jailed on National Security Law allegations.
Following three government losses in local courts, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee asked Beijing to prohibit Lai from using London-based counsel Tim Owen. Owen’s application for a visa extension was denied this week and he was forced to leave Hong Kong. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to deny Mr Lai legal counsel – along with his lengthy pretrial detention, lack of a jury trial, and the selection of handpicked judges – show Hong Kong’s blatant disregard for the rule of law.
Mr Lai is a well-known entrepreneur and campaigner who founded the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. Mr Lai’s crime in the eyes of the CCP is his promotion of democratic values. He founded a popular newspaper to speak truth to power and he dared to march with millions of his fellow Hong Kongers in defense of freedom. Beijing has made clear that such democratic sympathies must be put down. The start of Mr Lai’s trial was to mark the next stage in a pre-determined process set in motion by the CCP that could see him imprisoned for life.
Mr Lai’s sham court proceedings and continuing legal delays have put the global spotlight on Hong Kong’s crumbling rule of law. Since the introduction of the National Security Law, bail has been routinely denied and defendants effectively presumed guilty before trial. The right to trial by jury has been denied.
Just last week, a Hong Kong court sentenced Mr Lai to 5 years and 9 months’ imprisonment on trumped-up fraud charges for minor lease violations at the Apple Daily headquarters – something that has never been a criminal matter in Hong Kong. The upcoming National Security Law trial represents the CCP’s most audacious attempt to silence the pro-democracy campaigner.
Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation President, Mark Clifford, said:
“The Chinese Communist Party are sore losers. In baseball, it’s ‘three strikes and you’re out,’ but even three resounding defeats in lower courts haven’t stopped the CCP from denying Jimmy Lai the London-based lawyer of his choice. The CCP is so threatened by the prospect of freedom that it keeps rewriting the law and delaying Lai’s trial in order to silence a 75-year-old man who refuses to buckle under its pressure. Lai’s jury-free trial holds little hope for justice and will likely become just another marker in the dismantling of the rule of law in Hong Kong.
“Jimmy Lai once said that the National Security Law would be a ‘death knell for Hong Kong.’ We implore the international community to heed his words, to join us in fighting back against the CCP-imposed death sentence in calling for Mr. Lai’s immediate and unconditional release. The CFHK Foundation will stand with Jimmy Lai until he is reunited with his family and friends and is able to enjoy the freedom for which he has long fought.”
Notes to editors
Jimmy Lai is accused of conspiracy to publish seditious materials and collusion with foreign powers to endanger national security. He has been convicted on sham charges, including unlawful assembly and fraud, by the CCP’s puppet regime in Hong Kong, part of a coordinated campaign intended to humble China’s most famous dissident.